Water can be deceiving! Every river no matter how slow has a currant flowing beneath the surface. We recommend that before you begin your canoe or kayak adventure, you test your ability in a beginner’s class or in a small lake with friends present. Sure, you can go it alone if you’re an experienced kayaker, but you’ll still be decreasing your margin for error if you take along a friend. A buddy-rescue is faster than a self-rescue and there’s no such thing as a self tow if you’re hurt. Besides, it’s more fun to share the adventure.
Put your skills to the test in a class, not on an unguided trip! We offer at least one beginners class a year. You and your friends certainly don’t have to be experts, but everyone must be a strong enough paddler to handle the distance with ease. For sit-in kayaks, someone in the group must know how to do a wet exit and at least one person must know how to do a self rescue and T-rescue. We have Jon boats with experienced paddlers who follow us down the river on our paddles. If you are in trouble or need help, blow the whistle on your PFD or the one we provide at the beginning of the paddle.
When you’re a newer paddler, it’s smart to minimize possible bad situations even before you put your paddle in the water.
- Have a plan in mind. Let others know where you are paddling even if you are in a group.
- Calm, flat water works for beginners while rapids and surf are for experts.
- Small bodies of water: big ponds and little lakes are lots of fun to explore from a kayak.
- Popular with other paddlers: If other paddlers are present know that they might be able to help if you get into trouble.
- Not popular with power boats: Better yet, go where they’re prohibited. The Walker Creek Boat Launch (Yonah Dam Road) and above is a great place to practice your paddling without the presence of larger boats.
- Destinations where you have a tailwind on the way home: That does mean, though, that you’ll have a headwind on the way there!
- Routes that keep you close to shore: Shorelines are more interesting, anyway.
Be sure to look at your kayak or canoe equipment closely so you know how to use it all. Carry tow line with you in case a friend needs help. Some of these items are simple to use, others are a little more complicated:
- PFD: Your personal flotation device should fit snugly and always be on—and there’s never a kayak outing where you can forgo the PFD.
- Whistle: Attach it to your PFD. One blast is for attention; three blasts is “help.” If you forget how many, just keep blasting away until a rescuer arrives.
- Communication Device: If you’ll ever be out of whistle range of someone on shore, you need another way to call for help. If cell coverage is available, carry yours in a waterproof case. Otherwise you may need a VHF radio.
- Bilge Pump: This is vital if you capsize and have a boatful of water to purge.
- Spare Paddle: One per paddler is best, though a group can also share one or two spares.
- Paddle Float: This self-rescue gear requires training to use. (If the group’s rescuer can’t help you, you’ll have to rescue yourself.)
- Towline: in case someone can’t get to shore on their own.
- Headlamp: in case you’re out longer than you anticipated.
- Water Proof Bags
- Water Proof Camera
The list above includes the minimum safety gear we recommend. We’ll provide a more comprehensive list in another post. This list will get you safely on the river.